If you’re going through a divorce, you know how difficult it can be–and it can be even more stressful for your children. This is a major change, and it’s important to use the most effective methods to talk to your children about the divorce.
By using effective and age-appropriate communication, however, you can minimize the trauma a child experiences during a divorce.
Read on to learn more about how to help them cope with their changing circumstances.
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Effective communication is the most important way to help your child.
Taking the time to talk to your children about the divorce and what it means for them is very important.
A child may not be ready to hear every aspect of why their parents are not staying together. But, communication is essential during this time. Here are some ways to help ease some of the anxiety that they are experiencing:
- Explain to your children why you are splitting up in a way that’s simple to understand.
- Assure them they did nothing wrong.
- It is usually best if both parents break the news together. According to Twyford Law Offices, this allows both parents the opportunity to answer any questions they might have and reassure them that they will be okay.
- Explain the new living situation that you have both decided on ahead of time.
- Maintain schedules and routines as much as possible so that they can take comfort in the familiar routine.
Children of Different Ages Have Different Needs for Communication
How you should talk to your children about your impending divorce will depend on their age. Below are ways to talk to your child in an age-appropriate way.
If you have a child between two and five years old, keep the wording very simple. For example, “Mommy and Daddy love you very much, but they are going to live in two different homes now.” Remind them that they are very loved and they are not the reason for their parents separating.
Keep the conversation short, use language that makes sense to a young child, and give them lots of love and attention. If your child has questions, answer in a simple way they can understand.
Elementary Aged Children
Elementary school children understand more about life, so they require more detail. Be honest with them about the reasons for your divorce and answer their questions honestly.
Assure them they are not to blame and remind them how very loved they are. Explain to them the future living situation and how it will affect their schedules, routines, extracurricular activities, and holidays.
Hear them out when they want to express how the divorce makes them feel. They must understand that their anxiety, grief, and anger are all valid feelings and that neither parent is asking them to repress their emotions.
If your children are between 13 and 18 years old, they will need even more details about why their parents are divorcing. Explain the reasoning behind it. Let them know the divorce is not their fault and that their parents have decided this is best for them. It’s crucial to use effective communication because the impact of a divorce on a teen should not be underestimated.
Make sure they know where they will be living, when they will see each parent, and how the divorce will affect their weekends, holidays, and extracurricular activities. They may be nervous about their entire routine being turned on its head. This is a good time to reassure them that you will maintain what you can of the life they currently enjoy.
Encourage your teen to maintain a relationship with both parents. During a divorce, they may feel obligated to take sides, but a parent looking out for their child’s best interest will not put a child in that position.
Therapy and support from friends, family members, or even school counselors can be helpful. Let your teenager know you will offer them whatever they need to feel more secure during this time.
Support, Security, and Love
During a divorce, children need extra reassurance. They must be reminded that both parents love them and will continue to be in their lives.
Help them feel comfortable expressing their emotions and that their grief from their parent’s divorce is valid. They must understand that they are not responsible for sugarcoating their feelings, so it is easier for the adults to accept. This can only lead to problems later.
Counseling and time to speak to friends or family members is crucial so that they feel supported. This helps them understand that they will be okay, even if their parent’s marriage no longer is.
Divorce is complicated. However, there are ways to support your children throughout the process. Every child needs love and support from their parents to know that their world is not crumbling just because their parents decided to divorce.
You can help them by offering support, listening to their worries, and constantly reassuring them that they are no less loved and will be no less cared for.